Recently I’ve written a couple of blog posts and an article about the narcissistic trend within healthcare. If you’ve worked in healthcare marketing for more than a few months, you’ve undoubtedly faced a request from a service line leader who wants to see a photo of himself or his team prominently featured in an ad. It is an old, familiar story. Beyond the ever present pressure to showcase leading clinicians, our ads, brochures, websites, and billboards often scream, “Look at us,” or, “We’re Number One.” We talk about our world-class physicians, leading edge technology, advanced services, and amazing medicine. But we forget to make any of this relevant to the target audience. They are left saying, “So What?”
Below is a very brief video of me speaking to this issue. Enjoy!
Of course, the narcissism goes much deeper. It’s in the way healthcare organizations have designed their facilities (that is changing); it’s in the way most hospitals don’t accommodate patients’ desire to make appointments online or speak with clinicians via email or text; it’s in the design of our websites that don’t accommodate two-way conversation. The list could go on and on.
The good news is that many organizations are working on a more patient-first approach to care and the design of care. This is an exciting development and can’t happen fast enough.
Posted in Patient Experience, Narcissism in Healthcare Marketing | Tagged Healthcare Marketing, video post, linkedin, Narcissism in healthcare marketing, dan dunlop video | Leave a Comment »
Two of the major award competitions that my firm and its clients enter each year have deadlines that are rapidly approaching.
Healthcare Advertising Awards – The entry deadline is February 12, 2016 and the late deadline is March 10, 2016. The early bird deadline passed a little more than a week ago on January 28, 2016. The Healthcare Advertising Awards are sponsored by Healthcare Marketing Report.
Aster Awards – Early deadline is February 29, 2016 (entries must be postmarked by this date) and the late deadline is April 1, 2016. This competition is sponsored by Healthcare Marketing Today magazine. One thing I love about the Aster Awards is that they allow you to submit your entries electronically.
Both of these competitions are highly credible and have been around for a number of years. The Aster Awards are in their 15th year while the Healthcare Advertising Awards are in their 33rd year.
Posted in Awards, Awards Competitions, healthcare marketing awards | Tagged aster awards, healthcare advertising awards, healthcare marketing awards, linkedin | Leave a Comment »
Years ago I developed this checklist for a client who was continually fielding marketing requests from various service line leaders within her organization. You know the deal – everyone wants their program marketed. When the Chief of Orthopedics comes to you and wants his or her department marketed more aggressively, how do you respond? My first thought is, “What is behind this request and how does it relate to our organization’s strategic priorities?” Is this individual responding in a knee jerk fashion because he or she has been seeing ads or billboards from a competitor. Does the Chief of Orthopedics want to see his team on a billboard as a response to that advertising by the cross-town rival? Is it ego? Or is it genuine concern for meeting patient volume goals?
Below is the list I’ve developed. Please feel free to suggest additional considerations.
Service Line Marketability Checklist
- Is marketing this particular service consistent with the current business/strategic objectives of the organization? In what ways does it further those objectives?
- Is there demand for this service within your market area? What is the potential patient volume that you could capture? This speaks to opportunity.
- For this particular offering, where does patient volume come from? Are referring physicians really the target audience? Does it make sense to market this directly to consumers? It is important that you understand the decision-making process of the target audience. What is the path they follow to get to your door?
- Is the service/procedure ready for prime time? For example, you may have just hired a new spine surgeon. But that doesn’t mean that you have a spine program that is ready to market. So, ask yourself (and your internal client), are all of the components in place? If not, when will they be in place?
- Does the service line compare favorably to competitive offerings in the market? Are there compelling points of differentiation?
- What is the “so what” for residents in the service area? What compelling information do we have to share with them about this service line that they will find to be relevant? How can you effectively reach the target audience in a compelling fashion? Is advertising the best way to tell this story?
- What is the contribution margin for the procedure/service? Is it profitable? If it isn’t profitable, in what ways does marketing this service meet the business objectives of the organization? Is it prestigious? Does it have a positive halo effect? Are there internal reasons for marketing the service? There are times when it is okay to market a service to appease an internal constituent or constituent group. Morale can certainly be a consideration.
- Is there capacity for additional patient volume? This is huge. If there’s no capacity or limited capacity, you run the risk of alienating potential patients and referring physicians. It is important to note that hospital administrators and service line leaders often disagree about whether or not a given service has capacity. A service line may not be meeting its patient volume goals, but may also have issues that keep patient volumes lower than projected. That may have nothing to do with demand for that service.
- Is there ready access to the service? How long will patients have to wait for an appointment? (You can have capacity but still not be accessible.) Will someone answer the phone and return calls when prospective patients start calling? Can patients schedule appointments online?
- Is there a simple way for patients and referring physicians to schedule appointments? Often identifying a single phone number for patients/physicians to call is a huge obstacle to marketing a service or specialty.
- How is the service performing on patient satisfaction? Are there indications that patients will have a positive experience? What is the reputation of this program in your service area and among referring physicians? Note: Do not market services until they are ready to represent your brand in a positive manner.
- Does the service/procedure offer the opportunity for a “halo effect” where marketing the service will enhance the overall brand image of the organization? Does marketing this service bring equity to the organization?
- Are there champions within the department (physician champions or other clinicians) who will support the marketing effort? Are there potential bloggers or physicians who would be great on video? Are there sources of great content that you can repurpose?
- If we choose to market this service, how will we define success? What are the primary metrics that we will measure? (If you can’t identify ways to measure success, you may want to rethink promoting this service.)
- How will we track traffic/response to a potential marketing program in support of this service line? Is the department willing to track leads and survey new patients? Are they capable of tracking lead sources?
- Finally, do you have the budget needed to market this service effectively? If you don’t have the resources needed to make an impact, you are only raising expectations without the possibility of success. If you are going to market a specialty, do it right. Half-hearted efforts to appease an internal audience will only come back to haunt you.
Posted in service line marketing | Tagged healthcare marketing checklist, linkedin, marketing checklist, service line marketing | Leave a Comment »
After writing my blog post yesterday, I decided to create a Storify to curate many of the Tweets that are flying regarding the current BlueCross BlueShield of NC implosion. Here’s a link to the Storify:
Enjoy! And please share.
Posted in Health Insurance | Tagged BCBS NC, BCBSNC, blue cross blue shield of NC, bluecross Blueshield of North Carolina, Brad Wilson, linkedin | 1 Comment »
You may have seen the headline last week in Becker’s Hospital Review: “9 things to know about the massive BCBS of NC system failure.” In short, BCBS of NC has imploded, leaving thousands of customers in limbo, waiting to find out if they actually have the health insurance they enrolled for over a month ago. Approximately 25,000 customers were put in the wrong health plans – and billed for those plans. Frankly, I’m stunned that this issue hasn’t received more press coverage locally and nationally. (If a hospital erred this badly, it would make national news and BCBS would be calling for an investigation.) This issue is important because thousands of people in North Carolina are scared. Through no fault of their own, they’re concerned that they no longer have healthcare coverage. They feel powerless to impact the situation. And they don’t know where to turn for help.
Screenshot of consumer comments on BCBSNC’s Facebook Page
The situation is so bad that the CEO of BCBSNC, Brad Wilson, had to issue a public apology in the form of a blog post. It was a weak apology where he downplayed the scope and impact of the problem – a problem that has continued now for an entire month.
Customer frustrations have grown to the point where BCBSNC is now fearful and has asked local police to step up patrols around their facilities. Here’s the text from an email BCBSNC sent to its employees about security concerns related to this fiasco:
According to BCBSNC, its service challenges were caused by a new system and a billing company (vendor) error. BCBSNC recently implemented a new customer service record system and it hasn’t gone well. In addition, the company has placed blame on mistakes made by its claims processing and billing vendor. However, a whistleblower has claimed that BCBSNC knew about the issues well in advance of the current crisis. The staff member said the company decided to move forward with the software switch even though potential problems were foreseeable.
- Many customers who signed up online for new health plans that were to go into effect on January 1, 2016, still do not have confirmation that their new plan is active. They are effectively uninsured and in limbo.
- Customers received renewal notices for plans they did not sign up for – the wrong plan. (My wife was one of those.)
- Customers have been billed for cancelled policies. BCBSNC administered automatic bank drafts for 3,200 customers for an incorrect amount. If you are one of those customers who has selected a new plan, but received confirmation and billing for the old plan, what are you to do?
- Many customers have not received confirmation or ID cards for their new plans, while others received incorrect ID cards.
- Customers report being on hold for hours while trying to reach a BCBS customer service representative. Read the customer comments on BCBSNC’s Facebook page. You’ll definitely see a theme of being on hold for hours; being promised return calls that never come; and reaching customer service representatives who are not equipped to address the issues at hand.
- BCBSNC encourages customers to private message them to get on a call back list. When customers do that, they receive a message that their case has been upgraded in some way, implying that they will receive priority treatment and that a return call has been scheduled. But for many that call never comes.
- Customers have also experienced challenges trying to resolve issues online, due to BCBSNC system failures. When they do log on to the Blue Connect system, many report that their account no longer exists or it simply cannot locate their policy information.
If you want to get a feel for the scope of the problem, go to the BCBSNC Facebook page and read some of the customer comments. Here’s a screen shot that captures some of the recent comments on the page:
Remember, this has been going on for weeks!
If you’d like more information about the BCBSNC Debacle, below are links to some of the articles that have run. One of my favorites is the story about the customer who went to BCBS’ administrative offices and threatened to chain himself to the building until his situation had been resolved.
This entire situation has made me wonder if anyone at BCBSNC ever worked in crisis communications? Clearly not. Don’t they have a capable PR firm who advises them on such matters? There is so much more they could be doing to communicate clearly with their members. They should be doing everything they can to alleviate fears. We’re talking about people’s health insurance – their access to affordable prescription medicines – and their financial well being. BCBSNC needs to stop worry about covering its ass, and start spending all of its energy on communicating clearly and managing expectations. It is now January 27th and my wife and stepdaughter still don’t have health insurance. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel – no end in sight. This is because what equates to a big monopoly made a tragic business decision and is now more interested in saving face than in helping its members through this difficult time. In this day of digital communication, BCBSNC has the ability to reach out to its members, assure them that this will be fixed, give a detailed timeline and explanation of the changes they are making, and be transparent. Brad Wilson should be speaking to customers via video on BCBS’ Facebook page with daily updates. “Here’s the progress we made today. Here’s how many issues we resolved. We took 30,000 inbound calls. We reached out to 5,000 customers with return calls. Here are the problems we ran into and how we’re addressing them. The computer system was down for 90 minutes.” This should happen every day until this situation is resolved! BCBSNC’s handling of this situation is so disappointing, to say the least.
Posted in Health Insurance | Tagged BCBS NC, BCBSNC, BCBSNC system failure, blue cross blue shield of NC, bluecross Blueshield of North Carolina, Brad Wilson, linkedin, problems with BCBSNC | 3 Comments »
This is an incredibly well-written piece about how we deal with death today, versus how it was once done. Well worth the read.
An emergency physician’s beautifully written and agonizingly empathic account of “how we used to die” starkly contrasted with how most people die now in our death-defying, death-dealing military industrial medicopharmaceuticalized culture.
In the old days, she would be propped up on a comfy pillow, in fresh cleaned sheets under the corner window where she would in days gone past watch her children play. Soup would boil on the stove just in case she felt like a sip or two. Perhaps the radio softly played Al Jolson or Glenn Miller, flowers sat on the nightstand, and family quietly came and went. These were her last days. Spent with familiar sounds, in a familiar room, with familiar smells that gave her a final chance to summon memories that will help carry her away. She might have offered…
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